Stanford campus went into a quiet slumber following the end of the 2022 spring quarter. With the start of the next school year fast approaching, it seems the music has arrived first.
On Friday, Stanford’s Frost Amphitheater served as a pit stop for alternative rock musician Courtney Barnett’s “Here and There Festival,” a touring festival born out of her love for the curation of music and shows. While not many students witnessed the magic, the packed venue — a dense crowd sprawled out from the pit to the top of the amphitheater’s hill — hosted Barnett as the headliner, Grammy-nominated band Japanese Breakfast and indie artists Chicano Batman and Julia Jacklin.
Japanese Breakfast’s spot in the lineup initially piqued my interest, and their performance matched my expectation as my favorite of the night. While third to last, the audience’s energy was at its highest as they awaited the band’s entrance, and screams and cheers of “I love you” filled the space when the band entered.
Michelle Zauner, the band’s lead singer-songwriter and New York Times bestselling author, was glowing with charisma before she even began singing. “Paprika,” the opening song for their set as well as the first song in the group’s 2021 album “Jubilee,” was exciting. In between lines of lyrics, Zauner banged on a gong, loud crashes filling any chance of silence. They immediately followed with one of their most popular songs, “Be Sweet.” The song’s ’80s-inspired synth pop was paired with blue, pink and purple lights that, synesthetically, matched the danceable beat.
Afterward, Zauner introduced herself and the band, adding that they were “a band from Philadelphia.” According to Zauner, the next song was about a place she had never been to: “Kokomo, IN.” The breezy and serene ballad felt nostalgic. The audience swayed and murmured the lyrics back as she sang about youth, love and longing. The next song she transitioned to was the opposite of a soft ballad — ”Savage Good Boy,” a rock-filled anthem about greed, extravagance and post-apocalyptic billionaires’ bunkers. The arrangement of two keyboards at the beginning of the song was interesting to watch as musicians juggled instruments. With a blazing guitar solo at the end of the song, “Savage Good Boy” was a stand-out burst within Japanese Breakfast’s dynamite set.
While the setlist included songs from Zauner’s other albums — “Soft Sounds from Another Planet,” “Psychopomp” and even a song from the video game soundtrack for “Sable” — my favorite performance was that of “Slide Tackle.” The song, like much of their discography, is an 80’s-inspired, dance-worthy record, albeit with a lo-fi twist. The beauty of the arrangement as well as Zauner’s stage presence, with “dance-jogging” matching the rhythm, made my night.
If you like Phoebe Bridgers, Beach Bunny, Clairo or Lucy Dacus, you would love the festival’s opener, indie rockstar Julia Jacklin. With upbeat songs that heighten the modern pop punk renaissance and heartfelt, melancholic ballads that created intimacy within a large space, she kicked off the night in the best way possible. It was even more impressive that this was the first time she and the band had performed together. (Julia commented that she would eventually know what to do with her “hands” on stage, by the end of the tour at the very least.)
In a gorgeous red dress, which an audience member loudly complimented her on, she began with songs from her 2019 sophomore album, “Crushing,” including somber tracks such as “Head Alone” and “Body.” While she sings with softness, her music packs a hard, emotional punch.
Jacklin released an album called “Pre-Pleasure” on the day of the concert; Here and There attendees rocked to the tracks “Lydia Wears a Cross” and “I Was Neon.” Jacklin closed her set with “Pressure to Party,” the perfect indie rock song to end her set as she sang about rejecting social conventions on relationships and continuing forward.
The energy reached its climax as the audience awaited the agonizingly late arrival of Courtney Barnett. Though I was not familiar with Barnett, the event’s headliner and curator, she nevertheless impressed me with her confidence and larger-than-life stage presence. While I was tired from the long day of music, her set was an energizing jolt. Her colorful and futuristic bright lights made her set enticing. Her songs had an old-time feel, yet audience members of all ages sang to her rock anthems. The songs that stood out to me were: “Rae Street,” “Avant Gardener” and “Nameless, Faceless.” The third song was especially my favorite as it contrasted heavy metal guitar with a jolly, Beatles-esque melody.
Chicano Batman, a four-piece Chicano rock band based in Los Angeles, was the second band in the lineup. Their music, a mix of rock, soul, synth and late ’60s influence from Latin America, is hard to pigeonhole. Its familiar, yet unique sound was absorbed by the atmosphere of the amphitheater. While they had catchy electronic beats and guitar that impressively dominated each song, the lead singer — Bardo Martinez — was hard to hear due to how his voice and the instruments were mixed. Unfortunately, the volume of the instruments was too loud for his quieter tone.
Nevertheless, their music was superb; and along with Martinez’s voice, his swagger and stage presence throughout the entire set made up for any missed lyrics. The song “Dark Star,” which they opened with, stood out with juxtaposed heavy metal guitar during the verse and chill percussion during the chorus. Furthermore, the group’s Spanish-language song, “La Manzanita,” was sung beautifully by bassist Eduardo Arenas. If there weren’t a crowd, I would have probably danced more than the simple sidestep.
On the car ride home, I was raving about what I had witnessed. I was more than satisfied; the concert was a blast of good music and good energy that was worth coming back to campus early. The performances and memories will be sure to carry me through the end of summer and into fall.
Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective thoughts, opinions and critiques.